Finally Tumblr is Back in Apple’s App Store with Adult Content Ban

It seems like a long time when Tumblr was blocked in the month of November. Apple banned the official application of Tumblr over child pornography issues but recently the ban has been taken off. Tumblr said it found those photos during a routine check and that they slipped through its filters because they haven’t been added to the database of known child sexual abuse material yet. Since that day the website and the application have been flagged for the platform more aggressively. But after the recent updates, it was finally announced that it will no longer allow any adult content starting from December 17.
It’s not entirely clear if the total ban was what compelled Apple to add it back, but it’s worth noting the app’s listing says “This particular update also includes changes to Tumblr’s Community Guidelines, which prohibit certain kinds of content from being shown on Tumblr.” The website, which shares a parent company with Engadget, uses an algorithm to scour for and flag inappropriate content. It doesn’t seem to be working all that well yet, leading to flagged images of food, dogs and other perfectly innocent content.
Tumblr was kicked out of the App Store on Nov. 16, reportedly for hosting child pornography. Rather than improving its system for blocking such content — which was already against its community guidelines — its developer Oath made the decision to go much, much farther. The company said early this month it is “no longer allowing adult content, including explicit sexual content and nudity (with some exceptions).”
The ban is set to go down on Monday, Dec. 17. Community members with porn have been receiving notifications from Tumblr in advance so they can either appeal or migrate content onto a different platform. Even before the big change goes into effect, the software is already listed again on the iOS App Store.
So far, Tumblr and company parent Oath haven’t commented on the app’s return to the App Store. But it was originally taken down in mid-November over the presence of online child pornography. In trying to address the problem, Tumblr began purging pages belonging to erotic artists, sparking a flood of complaints. Then this month, the platform announced a ban on adult content, saying it was necessary to make the online service a “safe place” for all users. To filter out the porn, Tumblr will rely on automated tools.
Erotic artists and sex workers argue that Tumblr is their go-to platform to promote their projects. Many have also noticed Tumblr’s current porn-detecting algorithms are flagging innocent posts as explicit material.
“Indeed, the Internet is full of porn, the overwhelming majority of which caters to heterosexual men,” said the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “But on Tumblr, people created sex-positive spaces on Tumblr that don’t exist elsewhere. People created portfolios of their work, all of it, on the platform. Those spaces are going to vanish.” As of today, you can still find porn and erotic art on the iOS app. But presumably, Tumblr will begin filtering out the content from public view on Dec. 17 when the adult content goes into effect.
Probably, this could be a boon for many others too — those who already have Tumblr installed on their iOS device can use it without any constraints. However, for those looking to download it, as of 23 November, the app is still unlisted. For those who have uninstalled the app, it can be still found in the Purchased section in the App Store on the iPhone/iPad and you could be lucky if you are able to reinstall the app again. As of today, you can still find porn and erotic art on the iOS app. But presumably, Tumblr will begin filtering out the content from public view on Dec. 17 when the adult content goes into effect.
Whether users will care to continue using the iOS app is another matter; one study published in 2016 estimated that close to a quarter of people who visited Tumblr were there to consume porn. Many content creators affected by the ban are now looking to migrate to other platforms. The change is seen as Apple forcing prudish morals on the community. And it’s also being taken as an example of the downsides of the monopoly power granted Apple by the App Store. Oath doesn’t have the option of distributing the Tumblr app through other means, as iPhones and iPads can only get software through the App Store.